Speaker Biography
"[W]hat is patented [in gene patents] is functionally indistinguishable from natural DNA and RNA…. It can do precisely the same work as a naturally occurring gene-protein synthesis-and it employs precisely the same processes to do it, whether in the body or in the laboratory." - John M. Conley, writing in Journal of the Patent and Trademark Office Society


John M. Conley, J.D., Ph.D., undertakes research in law and social science, with a special focus on intellectual property law. He is William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Before beginning his legal career, Conley served as a scuba diver with the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts. Later, he practiced law in Boston and Charlotte, North Carolina for six years, specializing in intellectual property and civil litigation. In 1983, Conley joined the University of North Carolina (UNC) law faculty, where he teaches civil procedure, intellectual property, scientific evidence, biotechnology, and law and social science. He also teaches anthropology courses regularly at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University. Additionally, Conley is a member of the Executive Education faculty at UNC's Kenan-Flagler School of Business. He has written several books and numerous articles on such topics as the anthropological and linguistic study of the American legal system (with William O'Barr), the culture of business and finance, scientific evidence, and the law of intellectual property as applied to emerging technologies. Most recently, he has co-authored (with Jane Moriarty) a casebook entitled Expert and Scientific Evidence (Aspen, 2007). He is of counsel to the Charlotte law firm of Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, where he focuses on intellectual property and complex litigation.

Conley is the author, along with William O'Barr, of Just Words: Law, Language, and Power (Univ. of Chicago Press 2nd ed. 2005). He received his B.A. in classics from Harvard University, and his J.D., and his Ph.D. in anthropology, from Duke University. He was editor-in-chief of the Duke Law Journal.

Selected Publications:

John M. Conley and Jane C. Moriarty, Expert and Scientific Evidence, (Aspen, forthcoming).

John M. Conley, "Tales of Diversity: Lawyers' Narratives of Racial Equity in Private Firms," 31 L. & Soc. Inquiry 831-53 (2006).

John M. Conley and Cynthia Williams, "Is There an Emerging Fiduciary Duty to Consider Human Rights?" 74 U. Cinc. L. Rev. 75-104 (2005).

John M. Conley & Cynthia A. Williams, "Engage, Embed, and Embellish: Theory Versus Practice in the Corporate Social Responsibility Movement," 31 J. Corporation L. 1-38 (2005).

John M. Conley, "Changing Corporate Behavior in a Socially Responsible Direction," Center for Progressive Reform Perspectives Series (2005).

John M. Conley and Roberte Makowski, "Back to the Future: Rethinking the Product of Nature Doctrine as a Barrier to Biotechnology Patents," 85 J. Pat. Trademark Off. Soc'y 301-98 (2003).

John M. Conley, "The International Law of Business Method Patents," 88/4 Fed. Res. Bank Atlanta Econ. Rev. 15 (4th Quarter 2003).

John M. Conley, "Causation in Law and Science," 64 L. & Contemp. Probs. 1-4 (2001).

John M. Conley and David Peterson, "Of Cherries, Fudge, and Onions: Science and Its Courtroom Perversion," 64 Law & Contemp. Probs. 213-40 (2001).

John M. Conley, Mary Brown and Robert Bryan, "Database Protection in a Digital World," 6 Rich. J.L. & Tech. 2-110 (1999).

John M. Conley, "Intellectual Property Law and Cultural Heritage," 39 Current Anthropology 687 (1998).

John M. Conley and Kelli Bemelmans, "Intellectual Property Implications of Multimedia Products: A Case Study," 6 Info. & Comm. Tech. L. 3 (U.K.) (1997).

John M. Conley and David Peterson, "When Ethical Systems Collide: The Social Scientist and the Adversary Process," in Recent Developments in Forensic Linguistics, (H. Kniffka, et al. eds.) (Peter Lang Verlag 1996).

John M. Conley with William O'Barr, "Ideological Dissonance in the American Legal System," in Disorderly Discourse, (C. Briggs ed.) (Oxford Univ. Press 1996) (revised and updated version of article published in Anthropological Linguistics,

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